Mercedes-Benz launched the w202 C-Class in 1993 to replace the ten-year old w201 190, the original Baby Benz. In addition to introducing the C-Class name to the Mercedes lineup, the w202 propelled the Stuttgart-based firm into a new era of design characterized by softer, more modern lines.
The C-Class was a big hit – especially in the United States and its home country of Germany – but in retrospect it came during a dark time for Mercedes. Threatened in the U.S. by stiff competition from Japanese upstarts like Lexus and Infiniti, Mercedes desperately tried to cut costs in order to offer cheaper cars. The end result was a general regression in build quality and reliability.
Like the larger w210 E-Class, the w202 C-Class was prone to nasty electrical gremlins and had a worse tendency to rust than the 190 it replaced. Mercedes gradually fixed the issues and the later cars were noticeably better screwed together, but the w202 is generally considered a step down from the 190.
Mercedes ended production of the w202 in 2000 so late examples are still years away from achieving classic status but some of the earlier models have already celebrated their 20th birthday. Will non-AMG w202s become sought after by Mercedes enthusiasts, or will they forever remain the unloved, throwaway Baby Benz?